Ireland lock Donncha O’Callaghan will skipper the Lions against the Southern Kings on Tuesday at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.
O’Callaghan becomes the fourth player to skipper the team on the tour thus far and will pack down alongside veteran Simon Shaw in the second row, while scrumhalf Mike Blair is fit to take his place in the starting XV.
There had been concerns over the fitness of Blair and team doctor Gary O’Driscoll said on Sunday that the Scotland No 9 would be given until Tuesday to overcome a mild ankle strain, but coach Ian McGeechan confirmed that Blair took part in training on Monday and is fit for Tuesday’s clash in Port Elizabeth.
Nathan Hines has been selected at No 6 and McGeechan confirmed that it had originally been in the team’s plans to play him at both lock and flank.
‘Nathan has played there before with Perpignan,’ McGeechan said. ‘It’s the logical choice because Nathan is a player who can provide cover in the second row and at No 6.’
James Hook, who came on to slot the winning penalty at the weekend against Western Province, has been selected at flyhalf while Keith Earls moves from centre to fullback.
‘James has been playing brilliantly and with a lot of confidence,’ said McGeechan. ‘His goal kicking has been very accurate and he can cover at flyhalf, centre and fullback which gives us plenty of flexibility.’
Up front Andrew Sheridan has been selected at loosehead for the second game running, but will likely feature again in Durban on Saturday with Gethin Jenkins the only other natural option at No 1.
It seems unlikely that the likes of Earls, Hines, Joe Worsley and possibly Andy Powell will feature in the starting line-up for the first Test after playing two games in just four days.
However, McGeechan reiterated that every player in the squad would be considered for selection up until Wednesday morning.
The Lions are expected to do battle on Tuesday in front of the biggest crowd of the tour thus far, with the EPRU aiming to sell 40 000 tickets having already given away another 7 000.
Lions – 15 Keith Earls ,14 Shane Williams, 13 Riki Flutey, 12 Gordon D’Arcy, 11 Luke Fitzgerald, 10 James Hook, 9 Mike Blair, 8 Andy Powell, 7 Joe Worsley, 6 Nathan Hines, 5 Donncha O’Callaghan (c), 4 Simon Shaw, 3 Euan Murray, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Andrew Sheridan.
Subs: 16 Matthew Rees, 17 Adam Jones, 18 Tom Croft, 19 David Wallace, 20 Harry Ellis, 21 Ronan O’Gara, 22 Ugo Monye.